Lightning strike in Toronto

Tampa Bay Lightning's Steven Stamkos battles for the puck in front of Toronto Maple Leafs' Jonas...

Tampa Bay Lightning's Steven Stamkos battles for the puck in front of Toronto Maple Leafs' Jonas Gustavsson. (REUTERS/Mark Blinch)

ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:57 PM ET

After too many nights getting stoned by the Ryan Millers, Tim Thomases and Carey Prices of the NHL, Tampa goaltender Dan Ellis was a sight for sore eyes for the Maple Leafs.

But even some shoddy goaltending from the opposition wasn't enough to get Toronto a victory.

After Martin St. Louis tied the game with less than nine seconds left in regulation, Simon Gagne scored 1:15 in overtime to give the Lightning a 4-3 win and another shot to the heart of the down-on-the-mat Leafs.

With Jonas Gustavsson minding their own net the way he has through six strong consecutive starts, the Leafs looked like they would end their recent struggles but left the ice shell-shocked after a third consecutive loss.

A series of bad breaks and blunders led to yet another gutting defeat.

"We had some missed assignments, a couple of mental mistakes from veteran players that you wouldn't expect," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said.

Working backward, it started with a bad pass from Luke Schenn in the Lightning zone that led to a turnover on Gagne's game winner.

It was a pass Schenn later called "stupid" and a play made worse when Wilson said Phil Kessel "stumbled coming back on the back-check."

Then there was the lost faceoff in the final 12 second by Tyler Bozak, which had a bit of bad luck to it. The puck headed to the boards, glanced off the shift of Clarke MacArthur and over to the Lightning.

"We didn't win that draw clean but we battled for it," St. Louis said.

Of course the draw never would have happened if the Leafs hadn't made the unforgiveable mistake of icing the puck in the final 20 seconds with the Tampa net empty.

"We had a 3-1 lead and we have to close it out," Bozak said. "We shouldn't be putting ourselves in that situation."

They got in that situation on another blunder, when the defence somehow let St. Louis slip behind them and stand alone in front of the Leafs net. Once the puck got to him, an easy deke later by St. Louis narrowed the score to 3-2.

"They never scanned the ice," Wilson said. "That was a mental mistake."

The loss spoiled some notable good work for the Leafs, starting with Gustavsson who just can't buy a win these days despite some standout play.

Joey Crabb, called up from the Marlies earlier in the day, got his first assist as a Leaf and didn't look out of place on the Leafs second line.

Nik Kulemin scored a pair of goals as the Leafs returned to the speed game that resulted in some success earlier in the season.

And for the most part, the Leafs stuck to the assignment of shutting down the NHL's leading goal scorer, Steven Stamkos, by severely limiting his time and space.

But the way things have gone for the Leafs, even that isn't enough on nights like this.

They felt they were jobbed out of a goal that would have given them a 2-0 lead in the first period.

Schenn's shot from the point easily beat Ellis but was ruled a no-goal after MacArthur barely brushed him at the top of the crease.

"That should have been a goal," Wilson said. "I've seen goals around the league called off that are good hockey goals. Now we are hyper-sensitive to it."

Gustavsson, who has kept the Leafs in must about every game he has played since taking over the top job for injured J-S Giguere, has just three wins in 12 starts. Though he let in four goals, Gustavsson stopped 35 shots including a handful of big saves.

Ellis, who has struggled throughout the season, misplayed pucks that led to the Leafs first and third goals as the flagging Toronto offence was allowed back on its feet.

The Leafs opened the scoring on Kris Versteeg's seventh of the season as he fired a shot from behind the net that bounced past shaky Ellis, who had mishandled a Leafs dump-in seconds earlier.


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